Tennessee Wildlife Federation honors Dr. Dwayne Estes of Austin Peay State University as 2018 Conservationist of the Year for the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative

After years of science pointing to the dire state of grasslands worldwide, the TWF award puts southeastern grasslands squarely on the conservation agenda.


Tennessee Wildlife Federation, one of the largest and oldest nonprofits dedicated to the conservation of Tennessee’s wildlife and natural resources, hosted the 53rd Annual Conservation Achievement Awards on May 18, 2018 in Nashville.


Dr. Estes, known by the nickname the “Prairie Preacher,” received his award in the company of numerous other individuals and organizations, recognized for their achievements in conservation of land, air, and waters; conservation by legislators and businesses; and education, communications, and community service.  


Dwayne accepted the award on behalf of the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative, saying:


“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of Theo Witsell, co-founder of the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative; Austin Peay State University, without whose support SGI could not have come into being; and Nick Lapham and Clark Mitchell of the Band Foundation.  Nick and Clark recognized the potential of the SGI concept before Theo and I had even fully articulated it ourselves, and they have guided and supported us from the beginning.  


“Above all, I am accepting this award on behalf of all the SGI partners—both individuals and organizations—scattered across the Southeast who have come together to preserve, restore, and rebuild prairies, barrens, woodlands and grassland-dependent species, a truly noble cause.”


The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative aims to preserve, restore, and promote grasslands of all types throughout the Southeast.  Fully one-half of all rare habitat types in the Southeast are grasslands, which in turn harbor 60% of rare plant species and provide habitat for 35% of rare animals from bobwhites to box turtles.  It is no wonder that a large portion of the Southeast was recently designated the world’s 36th biodiversity “hotspot.”


At the same time, restored native grasslands have a mutually beneficial relationship with working lands.  Well-managed grazing, haying, and prescribed fire can contribute enormously to grassland habitats and species while improving the bottom line of private agriculture, forestry, or recreation operations.